September 14, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 1 Revelations
Drew Brees: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
New Orleans 45, Detroit 27
  • It would be incredibly convenient to chalk up Drew Brees' six-TD passing day -- just one short of the NFL single-game record (held by Joe Kapp, Y.A. Tittle, Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, George Blanda) -- to the mere presence of the sad-sack Detroit Lions. But let's get one thing straight here: As long as Marques Colston (30 yards, 1 TD on Sunday), Lance Moore, Devery Henderson (5 catches, 103 yards, 1 TD), Jeremy Shockey (4 catches, 31 yards, 2 TDs), Robert Meachem, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell (143 yards rushing) are operating at full capacity, Brees is a reliable threat for 3-4 TDs every week -- meaning he could realistically topple Tom Brady's two-year-old record of 50 by season's end. And if you think that's impossible, keep in mind the Saints have a top-5 offensive line, a pass-first, pass-second coach in Sean Payton and an easy-cheesy schedule that includes single games with St. Louis, New England, Buffalo and multiple clashes with Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay. Cha-ching! In terms of Brees' supporting cast, the three-headed rushing monster of Bell, Bush and Thomas should amass at least 170 combined yards per game; and Colston might finally get his due as an All-Pro receiver. One word of caution: Shockey had zero touchdowns last year; so don't go too crazy on the waiver-wire auction board for his services, OK?

    Regarding the Lions, Matthew Stafford will someday be known as the franchise's best quarterback since Bobby Layne (hey, did you know they both attended the same high school?) ... but in the meantime, he's just another woefully inconsistent asset in fantasyland (with an arm like a bazooka). He had his bright spots against New Orleans, for sure -- like this pass to Calvin Johnson, which should've been a touchdown -- but for the most part, he had the deer-in-the-headlights look of 21-year-old kid marking his NFL debut with a club with only two marketable playmakers, C-Johnson (3 catches, 90 yards) and Kevin Smith (72 total yards, 1 TD); and it'll be three once rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew takes the field. A second word of caution: At one point in the third quarter, Calvin Johnson had been targeted 13 times but only had three catches. By the fourth quarter, he looked absolutely gassed from having to carry the Lions' passing game. In PPR leagues, Targets may be gold, but there's a fine line between an NFL team featuring a star ... and killing him before the bye week.

  • San Francisco 20, Arizona 16
  • Here's a bet you probably didn't make with your buddies before Sunday: Tim Hightower would register more catches than Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston combined ... and yet, that's exactly how it went down at University of Phoenix Stadium (an ironic name, since U of P doesn't even have a football team). Hightower, as the NFL record books will attest 50 years from now, actually caught 12 balls for 121 yards (both career highs) while serving as Kurt Warner's go-to guy -- at least before Fitzgerald awoke from the dead. It was easily Hightower's best day as a pro, but it's still not enough to scoop him off waivers at the expense of talents like Donnie Avery, Steve Breaston, Mike Bell or even Beanie Wells, Arizona's No. 1 draft pick and soon-to-be No. 1 tailback. As for Warner (288 yards, 1 TD), his slow-as-molasses start was a tad unsettling, but he'll surely rebound once the Cards' receiving corps becomes whole (Breaston was inactive; Boldin had just two catches while nursing a sore hamstring).

    On the flip side ... the 49ers may be 1-0 in real-world football, but they're barely relevant from a fantasy standpoint. QB Shaun Hill (209 yards, 1 TD) confirmed his standing as a second-stringer, WRs Isaac Bruce (4 catches, 74 yards) and Josh Morgan (3 catches, 38 yards) might only be suitable bye-week replacements, and tight end Vernon Davis -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- oozes with potential during pregame warmups but usually finishes with 40 yards (just like Sunday). The only true star of the lot, Frank Gore, was lucky enough to score two touchdowns against the Cards ... otherwise, we'd be focusing on his paltry 48-yard day. All this leads me to the following: If you drafted Michael Crabtree, on the off chance he'd finally sign with San Fran before October, I have a funny feeling something will get done this week. Just call it an uneducated-educated hunch.

  • Baltimore 38, Kansas City 24
  • If you drafted Joe Flacco as a late-round backup QB, thinking he'd never see the light of day outside of 1-2 games ... congratulations on the unexpected gold rush. Think about it: On the heels of Flacco's 325-yard, three-TD performance against the moribund Chiefs, it's quite possible that he'll be classified as a must-start for the next seven games (at San Diego, vs. Cleveland, at New England, vs. Cincinnati, at Minnesota, vs. Denver, at Cincinnati, at Cleveland) -- thus prompting one to move heaven and earth to acquire him in the trade market. And as a reward for your trade diligence, he'll face Detroit on Dec. 13, aka the first playoff week in fantasyland! Flacco's supporting cast -- from Ray Rice (120 total yards), Willis McGahee (75 total yards, 2 TDs), Mark Clayton (5 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD) and Todd Heap (5 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD) -- also flexed their fantasy muscles, leading one to suspect all the Brandon Marshall-to-Crab Cake City talk is nothing more than rumor, speculation and innuendo.

    Regarding the Chiefs, Brodie Croyle isn't worth discussing, despite throwing two touchdowns in relief of the injured Matt Cassel. Larry Johnson (26 total yards) doesn't warrant much consideration either, simply because we knew he'd be subpar against the stingy Ravens defense. If anything, LJ should be judged on his next five games (vs. Oakland; all four NFC East teams) ... before determining if he's falling off the proverbial cliff in fantasyland. At the very least, all Johnson owners would be wise to sneak in a handcuff trade for Jamaal Charles (37 total yards). Better yet, he might just be available in free agency. Dwayne Bowe, for the most part, played like a street free agent against Baltimore, excluding his 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter. But hath no worries here: Whenever Cassel comes back, Bowe should average six catches for 80-90 yards, thus confirming his spot as a reliable and borderline dominant WR2.

  • Philadelphia 38, Carolina 10
  • If someone told you the Eagles-Panthers score before kickoff, while also revealing that Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook would produce less than 150 combined yards ... the prevailing insta-thought would have been: Well, Jake Delhomme must be the reason for that. Oh, snap!

    Seriously, has any quarterback ever strung together worse back-to-back games in NFL history? After tossing five picks against Arizona in the NFC playoffs, Delhomme threw four interceptions on Sunday, essentially handing Philly the game on a silver platter and providing Carolina coach John Fox ample reasons to make the uncomfortable switch to either Josh McCown or Matt Moore. In other words, let this be a warning shot to all Steve Smith owners (myself included): Sell high (or marginally high) ... now!

  • The Eagles, on the other hand, didn't exactly come away from the experience unscathed. As painful as 267 total yards sounds, it's nothing compared to the grief of Donovan McNabb likely missing a game or two with a fractured rib. And if that's the case, does Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick get the starting nod Week 3 against Kansas City? Would it even matter, given the Chiefs' open-door policy on defense? On the positive side, Brian Westbrook logged 72 total yards while getting his proverbial "sea legs" under him. Call this the second uneducated-educated hunch from Revelations ... but I'm guessing Westbrook earns 23-26 touches and racks up at least 130 total yards next week against the Saints. BOOM!

    Revelations, Book II
    Sidney Rice (left), Adrian Peterson: AP
    Minnesota 34, Cleveland 20
  • Strange but true: Wayyyy back in mid-August, Adrian Peterson represented the shakiest consensus No. 1 fantasy pick of the decade, despite racking up 3,494 total yards and 23 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Fast forward 30 days: Peterson is the early favorite to flirt with 2,000 yards rushing; and at the very least, he's a reasonable threat for 20 touchdowns while starring in an offense helmed by Brett Favre. Did you catch that last line ... Peterson is the redoubtable "star" of the Vikings, even with the attention-glomming Favre on board. Peterson's 198-yard, three-touchdown day would've been nothing short of superhuman -- if we hadn't already seen it twice before in 2007 (vs. San Diego, @ Chicago). Luckily for Minnesota, it didn't need any other magic to prevail in Cleveland. Favre (110 yards passing), Sidney Rice (2 catches, 17 yards), Visanthe Shiancoe (3 catches, 26 yards) and Chester Taylor (30 total yards) were all painfully ordinary, thus justifying their standing as fantasyland benchwarmers. As for rookie Percy Harvin, enjoy the 58 total yards and one touchdown; but be leery of the miniscule five touches.

    As for the Browns, welcome to a little preview of how the rest of the season will shake out. They don't have a fantasy-worthy quarterback (Brady Quinn) taking the field, yet curiously have one residing on the bench (Derek Anderson). The club has intriguing, but way-too-young depth at running back and receiver. Steve Heiden is no Robert Royal (4 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD) ... and Royal is no Kellen Winslow at the tight end spot. And Braylon Edwards, sad to say, only holds WR1/WR2 value when Anderson's flinging the ball downfield. To be fair, Edwards had a long TD pass/catch from Quinn negated in the second quarter; but that aside, the days of Braylon getting 14 targets per game are seemingly long gone. On the positive side, how about Jamal Lewis' 104 yards, including 47 receiving? And to think, some people were ready to push him off that cliff.

  • Green Bay 21, Chicago 15
  • To all the boisterous critics of QB-WR handcuffing, may we present the definitive Exhibit A: The value of pairing Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings on the same team. For 3 1/2 quarters Sunday night, Rodgers and Jennings were barely pulling their weight -- totaling less than 200 yards -- while the Packers trailed by two to the visiting Bears. But with just 71 seconds remaining, Rodgers found Jennings in the clear for a 50-yard TD bomb, putting Green Bay up by four points. Throw in a successful two-point conversion from Rodgers to Jennings (bumping the lead to six) ... and you have the recipe for out-of-the-blue fantasy exhilaration -- through the magic and wonderment of double-dipping points! For those keeping score at home, the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks begins and ends with Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning; but if any QB is on the fast-track to joining The Big Three, it's Rodgers. Translation: His 191-yard, 1-TD night will likely represent the nadir of a 4,500-yard, 34-TD season. Pitch a bold, creative offer to Rodgers' owner, ASAP!

    Regarding Jennings (6 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD) and RB Ryan Grant (67 yards, 1 TD), they're the centerpieces of a prodigious offensive attack in Green Bay and must be treated like Top 15 draft picks. Never waver on their supreme value.

    Speaking of elite players, Bears RB Matt Forte was held to just 55 rushing yards and failed to catch a pass for the first time in 17 NFL games. On one hand, this outing will fuel the fantasy naysayers who pegged Forte as a one-hit wonder in 2008 (1,715 total yards, 12 TDs), and as a complementary piece to the new offense, starring QB Jay Cutler. And then there's Forte's divine followers, who maintain the Bears offense still runs through No. 22. As first impressions go, when factoring in Cutler's 47-percent completion rate and four interceptions against the Packers -- along with Forte's minimal usage and Chicago's gut-wrenching defeat -- maybe Forte's followers have a point.

  • Indianapolis 14, Jacksonville 12
  • Leave it to Peyton Manning to bring fantasy goodness to an otherwise medicore outing. Yes, he only threw one touchdown -- a 39-yard bomb to Reggie Wayne -- but his 301 passing yards more than compensated for the low-TD rate. And for all we know, he might've thrown more scores against the Jags, if his receivers weren't so consumed with that giant ball of spectcular energy -- aka, The Sun -- taking over LucasOil Stadium. Seriously, what architectural genius conceived the idea of letting the sun DOMINATE the central-viewing areas of an INDOOR stadium? (Quick story: Back in 2004, in his second season with the Detroit Lions, head coach Steve Mariucci actually extended a free pass to then-rookie Roy Williams for dropping a ball during a cruical period -- on the basis of "losing the ball in the sun" at Ford Field, an indoor venue.) As for the other Colts playmakers, one would hope Wayne's a lock for 90-95 catches and eight TDs and that Joseph Addai is the reincarnation of his 2007 self (1,436 total yards, 15 TDs).

    Jacksonville, to no one's surprise, will only go as far as Maurice Jones-Drew can carry the club, from a fantasy and real-world perspective. He's the Jags' leading ballcarrier, receiver and Wildcat operator, making him indispensable in PPR and standard-scoring leagues. As for Torry Holt (3 catches, 47 yards), he's nothing more than an emergency flex option on Flubber turf ... and a must-bench on grass, which happens to be his new team's surface of choice at home (not that anyone in northern Florida will see Jags games at the Old/New Gator Bowl in '09).

  • N.Y. Jets 24, Houston 7
  • There are only two viable explanations for the Texans' offensive meltdown on Sunday: Either the injured Kevin Walter -- and not Steve Slaton or Andre Johnson -- is the real engine that drives Houston's offense ... OR Rex Ryan is the greatest rookie head coach since Jim Mora, Jr. All kidding aside, there was nothing positive to derive from Johnson's 35 receiving yards (on four catches), Slaton's 52 total yards (including one costly fumble) or QB Matt Schaub's 166 passing yards -- except to say they've likely hit rock bottom. It's not like you're going to bench Johnson, Slaton or Owen Daniels (4 catches, 44 yards) after one stinker. Right?

    As for the Jets, keep riding Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery (6 catches, 90 yards) to fantasy glory for the next six weeks until their Week 8 bye. So what if they lack potential flash-and-dash on a weekly basis, they're genuine models of consistency -- regardless of the circumstances. Oh, and when the mood should strike you, feel free to give rookie QB Mark Sanchez (278 yards, 1 TD) a spot start.

  • Revelations, Book III
    Matt Ryan: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
    Atlanta 19, Miami 7
  • The gambling and fantasy-football communities had to walk away from this one embittered over what could've been. A made-for-TV showcase of two playoff teams, two franchise running backs (Michael Turner -- 65 yards; Ronnie Brown -- 53 total yards) and a pair of personable, deadly-accurate passers essentially yielded little entertainment value in return. Oh sure, Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD) scored a touchdown in his Falcons debut, and Atlanta's Matt Ryan finished with a clean 229 passing yards and two touchdowns; but the whole slumberfest likely left DirecTV Sunday Ticket viewers reaching for the remote ... in search of an underrated game with surprising pop.

  • Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21
  • Before we get to the good stuff, like Tony Romo's 355 yards and three touchdowns, Patrick Crayton's 135 yards and one TD and Roy Williams' 86-yard, 1-TD performance, what happened to Felix Jones -- the golden child of pre-draft fantasy sleepers? Twenty-two yards on just six carries, with no receptions? Yes, Week 1 isn't completely official yet, but this has to rank as the most disappointing non-Delhomme occurrence of opening weekend. Unless Mr. Jones is battling an unreported illness or injury, there's simply no excuse for posting pedestrian numbers against arguably the NFL's worst team. (deep sigh) As for Romo & Co., the Dallas passing offense crushed all pregame estimates, belying the universal thinking that Marion Barber (79 yards, 1 TD), Tashard Choice (16 total yards) and Jones would engulf the Bucs with an unstoppable power-running game. Even Jason Witten got enough juice (5 catches, 71 yards) to make fantasy owners forget to curse his name in hushed tones. As for Tampa Bay, Cadillac Williams (97 total yards, 1 TD) looks shiftier than ever, and Derrick Ward (83 total yards, 1 TD) seems at home with the Bucs' three-pronged rushing attack (along with Earnest Graham). It goes without saying: IF Caddy is available on waivers come Wednesday, don't be afraid to dump Sidney Rice, Bryant Johnson, Bobby Engram, Kevin Curtis or Ted Ginn, Jr. with that last roster spot.

  • N.Y. Giants 23, Washington 17
  • Give New York credit for achieving two objectives in this relatively forgettable September affair: The club earned a much-needed victory and got some clarity on the jumbled mess that is the receiving corps. Sunday's stars included Steve Smith (5 catches, 80 yards) and Mario Manningham (3 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD), two guys with virtually no track record of fantasy success. The running game was quiet, yet productive, meaning Brandon Jacobs (63 total yards) remains a weekly must-start, while Ahmad Bradshaw (71 total yards) still serves as a solid asset come trading time. In defeat, the Redskins demonstrated pockets of fantasy progress. Tight end Chris Cooley (7 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD) and RB Clinton Portis (72 total yards) should never be benched, when fully healthy. QB Jason Campbell (227 total yards, 1 TD) is a top-end backup, and Hunter Smith would be a perfect waiver-wire option -- if punters ever tallied points for scoring touchdowns.

  • Seattle 28, St. Louis 0
  • While it's true Fantasy Clicks plays no favorites on NFL Sundays, perhaps it'd behoove us to skip right over the Rams' contribution for Week 1. Out of 10 possessions midway through the fourth quarter, St. Louis had punted on eight drives, missed a field goal on another and turned over the ball on downs. The one shining beacon was ex-Falcons WR Laurent Robinson pulling down five catches for 87 yards (12 points in PPR leagues). If you didn't have the foresight to grab him in the last round of your respective fantasy draft (and trust me, he WAS available then) ... please consider him as a waiver-wire must-have this week. As for the Seahawks, isn't it amazing how much better Matt Hasselbeck looks when he's throwing to NFL-quality receivers ... and doesn't have to wear a back-brace (girdle?) between possessions? On the day, Hasselbeck threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns, perhaps signifying his return to the elite-class of fantasy quarterbacks. At the very least, he's a must-start every week, barring injury. His supporting cast represents a significant upgrade from last year, as well: Holdovers Julius Jones (136 total yards, 1 TD), John Carlson (95 yards, 2 TDs), plus T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6 catches, 48 yards) and a healthy Nate Burleson (7 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD). In other words, all seems right again with the Northwest Territory.

  • Denver 12, Cincinnati 7
  • Ever hear of a "smashed windshield game" in NFL circles? That's when someone purposely leaves two Denver-Cincinnati tickets on their car dashboard outside Paul Brown Stadium -- only to find their driver-side window shattered soon thereafter ... with the unknown assailant placing two more tickets on the dashboard. Well, it pains me to say this, being so high on Kyle Orton during the preseason, but the only thing that saved Broncos-Bengals from "smashed windshield" status was Brandon Stokley's once-in-a-lifetime 87-yard TD catch/run, clinching a victory for the ages!

    Stokley's heroics aside, I now have a few practical questions (thanks, Steve Czaban): Is Brandon Marshall (4 catches, 27 yards) really that far behind with absorbing Josh McDaniels' playbook? Does he seem mentally fit enough to trade for as a "buy-low" option? Is Eddie Royal (2 catches, 18 yards) only dangerous in fantasyland against poor pass defenses ... and when Marshall is pulling down 10-12 catches per game? And why doesn't Correll Buckhalter (10 touches, 57 yards) see the ball more?

    Regarding Cincy, is this Chad Ochocinco's idea of "doing something that's never been done before?" ... because I see guys catch five balls for 89 yards every Sunday. And when will people realize that Cedric Benson (98 total yards, 1 TD) is a reliable threat for 100 total yards EVERY Sunday (minus the four games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh)? For those old-school fantasy owners who detest time-shares at running back ... I hope you'll practice what you preach and move heaven and earth to land one of the NFL's 10 best primary backs. At the very least, would it kill you to conceive a creative trade involving Benson before Week 4, when Cleveland appears on Cincy's sked?

  • Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
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